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Body-camera maker has financial ties to police chiefs

Published:Wednesday | March 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Steve Tuttle, vice-president of communications for Taser International, demonstrates one of the company's body cameras for the Associated Press during a sponsored conference hosted by Taser at the California Highway Patrol Headquarters in Sacramento.

IOWA (AP):

Taser International, the stun-gun maker emerging as a leading supplier of body cameras for police, has cultivated financial ties to police chiefs whose departments have bought the recording devices, raising a host of conflict-of-interest questions.

A review of records and interviews by the Associated Press shows Taser is covering airfare and hotel stays for police chiefs who speak at promotional conferences. It is also hiring recently retired chiefs as consultants, sometimes just months after their cities signed contracts with Taser.

Over the past 18 months, Taser has reached consulting agreements with two such chiefs weeks after they retired, and it is in talks with a third who also backed the purchase of its products, the AP has learned. Taser is planning to send two of them to speak at luxury hotels in Australia and the United Arab Emirates in March at events where they will address other law-enforcement officers considering body cameras.

 

conflict of interest

 

The relationships raise questions of whether chiefs are

acting in the best interests of the taxpayers in their dealings with Scottsdale, Arizona-based Taser, whose contracts for cameras and storage systems for the video can run into the millions of dollars.

As the police chief in Fort Worth, Texas, successfully pushed for the signing of a major contract with Taser before a company quarterly sales deadline, he wrote a Taser representative in an email, "Someone should give me a raise."

The market for wearable cameras that can record arrests, shootings and other encounters has been growing fast since the killing last August of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. President Barack Obama has proposed a $75-million programme for departments to buy the cameras to reduce tensions between officers and the communities they serve.